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Study Shows Lack of Pediatric Eye Care Specialists in the US

Ensuring the well-being of our children involves many facets, including their eye health. Having access to professional eyecare can significantly impact a child’s social and emotional development and academic performance.


Early identification and treatment of eye diseases in children can often prevent long-term vision loss and is essential for maintaining their quality of sight and overall health. Unfortunately, a recent study published in JAMA Ophthalmology has uncovered a significant gap in access to pediatric eye specialists across the United States.


The Study: Unveiling the Disparity

Researchers recently conducted a comprehensive study investigating the distribution of pediatric eye care service practitioners across United States counties. Their goal was to identify underserved populations by comparing the locations of these eye care providers with patient demographics. Between April and July 2023, researchers collected data from four different public databases to map the practice locations of pediatric optometrists and ophthalmologists.


Data Sources

The study was extensive, involving data from various sources:

  • Pediatric optometrists recorded in public databases
  • Pediatric ophthalmologists recorded in public databases
  • 2020 U.S. census respondents

In total, 586 pediatric optometrists and 1,060 pediatric ophthalmologists were identified, with 51.5% of pediatric optometrists being female and 55.7% of pediatric ophthalmologists being male.


Key Findings: A Stark Reality

The study revealed a concerning lack of pediatric vision care providers in many U.S. counties. More specifically, it was found that:

  • Only 203 counties (6.5%) had at least one pediatric optometrist.
  • Only 308 counties (9.7%) had at least one pediatric ophthalmologist.

When examining counties with pediatric ophthalmologists, researchers found that these areas generally had higher mean household incomes and a more significant proportion of the population holding bachelor’s degrees compared to counties with pediatric optometrists.


The study also noted that counties without any pediatric practitioners had the lowest mean household incomes and the smallest proportion of residents with bachelor’s degrees.


Geographic Disparities

The disparity in access to pediatric eye care was starkly evident when examining a number of specific states. States such as Georgia, Idaho, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and South Carolina each had access to only one pediatric optometrist, while Vermont and Wyoming each had only two pediatric ophthalmologists. In addition, Washington, D.C., reported having no pediatric optometrists at all.


In contrast, states like Illinois, Ohio, Texas, and California had the highest number of pediatric optometrists, with California, New York, Florida, Texas, and Massachusetts leading in the number of pediatric ophthalmologists.



Although alarming, this study’s results highlight the urgent need to extend pediatric eye care access to underserved areas. The lack of pediatric eye care professionals in many U.S. counties means that children in these regions may not have access to the necessary early childhood eye care to prevent long-term vision problems.


It is important to note that researchers also recorded limitations in their study, including the exclusion of specific demographics, such as undocumented immigrants and international patients, which could mean that the actual lack of access is even more pronounced than reported.


Moving Forward

Addressing this critical issue requires concerted efforts from healthcare policymakers, educators, and the medical community. By increasing awareness and directing resources towards training more pediatric eye care specialists and strategically placing them in underserved areas, we can help ensure that every child has access to the comprehensive eye care they need.


Choosing A&A Optical

As a company dedicated to providing premium eyeglass frames to independent optical offices across the United States, A&A Optical understands the importance of accessible eye care for all ages, especially those in the younger generations. We believe that every child deserves good eye care and high-quality frames that they can feel confident wearing. 


Want to make your frame inventory more child-friendly? The Aéro Kids collection from A&A Optical has a fantastic variety of kid-approved frames that combine comfort and durability with bold designs that encourage self-expression. Visit our website for more information about the Aéro Kids collection and bringing these frames to your shop.

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